Red Sox among four teams interested in Francisco Cordero

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UPDATE: Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com reports that Cordero would prefer to return to the Reds.

8:15 PM: ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported earlier this afternoon that the Red Sox have “increased dialogue” with free agent closer Francisco Cordero. Alex Speier of WEEI.com hears similar information from his sources, but he was also told by Cordero’s agent, Bean Stringfellow, that his list of potential destinations has been narrowed down to four teams who are willing to give multi-year contracts.

“With the interest we’ve received, we’ve been exploring multi-year deals and we’re very confident that’s where we’re going to end up,” said Stringfellow. “The teams that we’ve spoken to, none of them have balked at that of the four remaining clubs.”

Stringfellow wouldn’t confirm the specific teams involved, but Speier writes that the Red Sox, Reds and Angels are believed to be interested. The Reds declined Cordero’s $12 million option for 2012 in late-October, but are interested in bringing the veteran right-hander back at a lesser annual salary.

Cordero, who turns 37 in May, posted a 2.35 ERA and 37 saves in 43 chances this past season, but he also had the lowest strikeout rate and velocity of his career. He at least adapted by increasing his ground ball rate and cutting back on the free passes, but a lucrative multi-year deal could be a big risk.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.